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Helskir (Kingdom of)

Location: Northern tip of the Isle of Dawn, north of Westrourke and northwest of the province of Dunadale.

Area: 8,980 sq. mi. (23,258 sq. km.).

Population: 40,000.

Languages: Thyatian (Redstone dialect), Alphatian (Hillvale dialect).

Coinage: Emperor (5 gp), lucin (gp), asterius (sp), denarius (cp). Alphatian coins are also very common: crown (gp), mirror (sp), judge (cp).

Taxes: 20% income tax, collected 4 times a year (Va. 1, Ya. 1, Fy. 3, and Ei. 1). 5% sales tax on all items except food and clothing.

Government Type: Independent monarchy with formality ties to the Empire of Thyatis.

Industries: Trade and fishing.

Important Figures: Eruul Zaar (King, human, male, F18), Asteriela Torion (Queen, human, female, M12).

Flora and Fauna: Standard for its climate, notably herds of sheep and goats. Dangerous monsters include goblinoids and bandits that are common throughout the Isle of Dawn. Giant lizards and other unknown monsters inhabit the Demeran's Moor.

Further Reading: M5 Talons of Night, Dawn of the Emperors boxed set, previous almanacs.

Description by Vivianna Romanones.

Helskir was the first autonomous kingdom to be accepted into the Empire of Thyatis. As such, the king and queen of the land have greater control over the laws than in normal Thyatian dominions, even to the point where they can overrule Thyatian imperial law, though they have yet to adopt Alphatian custom and reduce Citizens to the status of subjects and chattel. Helskir does not send taxes to the imperial treasury, and its troops are under royal control, kept distinct from the imperial forces, though they liaison with imperial officials who protect the kingdom from external attack (by, for example, the NACE or the Heldannic Knights). In all respects, it is an independent nation with only formal ties to the empire. Only if the emperor himself declares war on another nation must Helskir participate in imperial politics and send its troops out to fight alongside the imperial legions. There has been some friction in the past when Helskiran officers attempted to give commands to imperial troops, but Emperor Eusebius has made it clear that he will not delegate imperial military authority to a subordinate nation.

Helskir sends representatives to the Thyatian Imperial Senate, but there is some indication that the kingdom's rulers would like to forge closer ties to the NACE as well. Helskir has always been a border nation, and seems to be trying to play both sides again. It is difficult to discern where the kingdom's loyalties truly lie, but if the history of Zaar and Asteriela are any judge, it is with themselves only.

Is this in fact the start of a new age for the Empire of Thyatis? Is the chain of command among the nobility being destroyed and replaced with this new form of government? I can't help but noticing that independent kingdoms loosely allied together with an emperor in charge of only the military and foreign affairs sounds way too much like the Empire of Alphatia. Is it a better system? I personally don't think so, as each nation has its own armies, and it makes coordinating military activities extremely difficult. Still, I'm a warrior and not a politician, so I'll let our leaders decide what will become of our empire.

The Land

Helskir is a very small kingdom that has been oriented more towards the sea and fishing than the land throughout its history. This is starting to change somewhat as new immigrants begin to put the fertile coastal lowlands to agricultural use, and food exports to the Thyatian mainland are increasing. These trade ties will serve to forge strong bonds to the empire, regardless of the whims of Helskir's fickle rulers.

The southwestern borders of the kingdom end at fog-shrouded Demeran's Moor. Various bandits, goblinoids, and lizard-monsters make their lairs in the moor, and sally forth to strike passers-by, using the fog to hide their movements. Both royal and imperial patrols have increased in this area of late, in order to contain this menace.

The southeastern borders of the land are rocky and unsuitable for farming, and thus are only sparsely inhabited. Insular clans of Helskirans do herd goats in this area, but preferring their privacy they do not welcome wandering strangers quickly. Further past the border into Dunadale, the land rises higher and higher until it finally drops several hundred meters and becomes the Herdane Escarpment. Though this natural feature is within the borders of Dunadale, patrols of Helskir often go as far as the escarpment, pursuing bandits and humanoids in cooperation with imperial forces.

The city of Helskir itself is growing rapidly. New city walls have been built to better defend this vital port, and Helskir is becoming one of the major trade centres of this region of the world. Strategically sited buildings, warehouses, and markets also have palisades protecting them. Helskir has a deep harbour, able to accommodate many ships in its docks, a fact that has helped them achieve their seafaring success.

The People

Helskirans are a freedom loving, self-sufficient people, who prefer to handle things themselves rather than relying upon their government for help. Helskir has changed from Thyatian to Alphatian rulership and vice-versa so many times that Helskirans have lost count. Regardless of which empire Helskir has belonged to, Eruul Zaar has remained the ruler of this town, shifting his loyalties with the wind.

Most Helskirans are of Alphatian descent, but severed all ties to the despotic Empire of Alphatia. Until recently, many feared that Helskir would be the first place to be destroyed should the two empires go to war. The natural and easy infidelity of Zaar ironically spared Helskir from the destruction of the Great War and its aftermath, shifting affiliations whichever way the wind blows. This has given the people prosperity, but at the expense of respect for their rulers-they know the political folly of Zaar and Asteriela led ultimately to Helskir standing alone against raiders from Ostland and Heldann. Many Helskirans suffered great losses during these raids, and the resulting popular pressure forced the royal couple to restore ties to Thyatis in order to salvage the prosperity they had gained by sacrificing honour to profits. Helskirans now look forward to a bright future, hoping for some political stability. It is not clear their rulers will grant them that, though, as there have been rumours of secret talks with representatives of the NACE, which could spark yet another border war over control of this nation.

Recent History

Helskir is a young nation for this region of long-established civilisation. For many centuries Helskir was nothing more than a sleepy, peaceful community of fisherman. Then Eruul Zaar, the son of a famous Isle of Dawn bandit lord, seized control with a group of followers just over 40 years ago. He attracted new settlement by promising to curtail the danger of piracy and brigandage in the region. This he did, in part by incorporating the bandits loyal to him into Helskir's army, and in part by using his personal knowledge of bandit hideouts to root out those bands which wouldn't pledge loyalty to him. Via this sort of method he succeeded in attracting settlers, and brought Helskir, for good and ill, to the state it is in today. When the fishing trade started to become lucrative, both the Empires of Thyatis and Alphatia began to take greater interest in the area, and both have claimed it numerous times. Eruul Zaar shifted his loyalties to whomever he thought would grant him greater advantage at any one time, claiming to derive his legitimacy as ruler from whoever was in charge at any given moment, but in essence being little more than a jumped-up bandit chieftain. He let the armies fight for rulership outside of town and obsequiously pledged loyalty to whoever won the battle. Hence, whenever Helskir changed empires, Zaar still remained the ruler of the town, useful to both empires. With all this shuffling around and battles for the small town, it is no wonder that most Helskirans feared the future-often the town would near a state of prosperity, then be suddenly depopulated and devastated again. Zaar, charming and charismatic, persuaded the people that their struggles were the fault of outsiders (whichever empire was out of his favour at any given time) and that they needed his authority in order to rebuild. Meanwhile other nations on the isle, with less fickle rulership, were usually spared the strife Zaar's folly visited on Helskir. The Great War, which left Helskir intact while devastating the rest of the island seemed to change that pattern, until the raiders arrived to strip the people of their hopes.

In AC 994, Helskir served as the neutral meeting grounds to discuss future expansions for both empires. Hotly contested were the lands of Norwold, recently granted [that is, in AC 990. Ed.] to Ericall, son of Empress Eriadna of Alphatia. In fact, Emperor Thincol and Empress Eriadna themselves both appeared at this meeting, only to be kidnapped by forces of Alphaks. Brave adventurers ventured to the Great Escarpment to rescue the two rulers. There they faced the intelligent spiders that are now plaguing the southern Isle of Dawn once more [this heroic quest is often told by bards; just ask them to tell you about the M5 Talons of Night adventure. Ed.]. In the end, King Ericall retained his title over Norwold.

In AC 1008, during the heat of the battle for the Isle of Dawn, Eruul Zaar married Asteriela Torion, daughter of the Emperor of Thyatis, and was declared King of Helskir by the Empress of Alphatia. Thyatis was forced to recognise the kingship in AC 1009 when it signed a peace treaty with Alphatia, shortly before the hubris and aggression of the Alphatians resulted in their destruction.

Helskir remained independent until AC 1012, when it voluntarily rejoined the Empire of Thyatis following years of destructive raids and fear of invasion from Thothia, Heldann, or any other power seeking to take advantage of the kingdom's isolation. Emperor Eusebius agreed that the ties between Helskir and Thyatis would be limited and that Helskir would in remain an autonomous nation, a protectorate of the empire.

Don't Miss

There is not much to see in Helskir proper, except for the lighthouse that guides ships to the safe deep-water harbour. This building is a good 15 stories in height, and its base must be at least 15 meters. A huge magical fire lights the top of this tower, and this reportedly allows ships to spot it from at least 150 kilometres (100 miles) away. This is one of the largest lighthouses known in the world, shorter only than those at the entrances of Vanya's Girdle. Mirrors aim the light out toward the sea, guiding ships to Helskir's harbour. Lately, the lighthouse has also served as a watchtower, warning of approaching raiders.

The market of Helskir is also a popular place for merchants and off-duty soldiers. Here one can find goods from all around the world. Almost all ships that sail the Alphatian Sea or Sea of Dawn has probably stopped in Helskir at one point. Lately a brisk market-market trade in goods "recovered" from the sunken continent of Alphatia has sprung up. Although Thyatian coins are the standard for this kingdom, merchants in the markets of Helskir accept coins from almost any nation.